Sunday, February 25th 2018    |   

Autobiography of Howard Hughes

Saturday, May 24, 2008   |   Literature
Clifford Michael Irving (born November 5, 1930) is an American writer, best known for an "authorized autobiography" of Howard Hughes that turned out to be a hoax.

He was acquainted with art forger Elmyr de Hory and wrote his biography, Fake! (1969). Irving and de Hory are both featured in Orson Welles' documentary F for Fake (1974), originally a BBC documentary written by Irving and directed by Francois Reichenbach.

By 1958 Howard Hughes had become a recluse who hated any kind of public scrutiny. Whenever he found out that someone was writing an unauthorized biography about him, he bought the writer off. By the 1960s he even refused to appear in court. According to various rumors, he was either terminally ill, mentally unstable, or even dead and replaced by an impersonator.

In 1970, in Spain, Irving met with an author and old friend, Richard Suskind, and created the scheme to write Hughes's "autobiography." Irving and Suskind believed that because Hughes had completely withdrawn from public life, he would never want to draw attention to himself by denouncing the book or filing a lawsuit for slander. Suskind would do most of the necessary research in news archives. Irving started by forging letters in Hughes's own hand, imitating authentic letters he'd seen displayed in Newsweek magazine.

Eventually the Irvings gave up and confessed on January 28, 1972. They and Suskind were indicted for fraud, appeared in court March 13, and were found guilty June 16. Despite the efforts of Irving's lawyer, Maurice Nessen, Irving was convicted and spent 17 months in prison at the federal correctional facility in Danbury, CT and at the Allenwood Prison in PA, where he stopped smoking and took up weightlifting. He voluntarily returned the $765,000 advance to his publishers. Suskind was sentenced to six months and served five.

Following his release, Irving continued to write books, including several bestsellers, notably Trial, Tom Mix and Pancho Villa, Final Argument and Daddy's Girl.